Monday, June 29, 2009

Back from another field trip. 1/2

Saturday 530am: alarm goes off; the start of a field trip to Buyakira with RRM. Banging headache. Reason: we partied the evening before at the MONUC base. I drank too much and slept less than 3 hours. Anyhow, RRM is IRC’s Rapid Response Mechanism. If an emergency happens these guys are there quickly to build emergency schools, latrines, provide medicines, NFI kids (NFI = nonfood items), etc. RRM works together with UNICEF. Our task this weekend: monitoring and checking the (security) situation. Also, there is a photojournalist that has to be shown around.

Introducing Stefan.

The team was led by Stefan. Introducing Stefan: Bright, responsible, young German guy (30), head of RRM, worked all over the world (Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kenya, Bosnia, etc.), knowledgeable, and very dedicated to humanitarian work. I’m very impressed by him. Very nice guy as well.


After a 4 hour and (as always) bumpy ride we arrived in Buyakira. Buyakira is a 'big' town with at the moment a lot of IDPs – internally displaced people. Reason: Kimia II. Because of recent and current fighting between FARDC and FDLR - quite nearby Buyakira - attrocities are committed (by both sides) and people flee to Buyakira, which is 'relatively' safe. As always we first had a long chat with the local administration; out of nicety, but also for security reasons. After that our team split up:

Tracy (IRC employee), Roger, Jacques and Bobonne (local IRC RRM employees) were going to check recently build emergency latrines and an emergency school.

Stefan (see above) and I were going to check the IDP (internally displaced people) situation and driving around Susan (the photojournalist). Most of IDPs in the area are taken up by host families in Buyakira; sleeping in the same house, sharing the very small amounts of food, etc. We had a talk with several of them for about an hour. However, we kept it short because not too many people were around (and Susan needed some interesting pictures). We told them that we would pass by the next morning.

The emergency school. Jacques on the bottom picture.


After that we traveled deeper into the mountains; about 8km. We arrived in Mybano; a small village with mud and adobe houses. Talking with villagers and recently-arrived IDPs to hear their stories of what happened to them and their villages (I will not write down the stories we heard). On the nice side: Stefan and I had a really good time with the children. They had balls made out of plastic bags and although they were not good enough for playing foodball, we invented the game "throw the ball through your legs". It is great to see that in such difficult circumstances these children can still enjoy and play. We spend there around 3 hours.



Next destination: the hospital back in Buyakira; for interviews with people (FARDC soldiers, civilian casualties, etc.). We also talked with the doctors (MSF-France) about the situation on the ground and any possible needs of the hospital.

Dinner and hotel.

By 7pm we were broken (and a strong urge for a cold Primus beer). We went for dinner at a local restaurant. I think we were the first customers in weeks; the beers had to be bought in the shop, electricity was off, there were no glasses, etc. But all this is great. Also, the goat and foufou tasted fantastic; especially knowing that I only had one sweet patato (a "yam") that we bought along the road. I hadn't had breakfast (my stomach wasn’t up for that) and no lunch. By 930pm I was in bed and very shortly after that knockout.

Of course, pre-dinner dancing. From L to R: Stefan, somebody that passed by and heard the music, Susan, Roger.

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